Chapter 2

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Every time my two best friends, Rain De Castro and Meah Constantino, dropped by my place unannounced, it usually meant something bad happened to one of us. The last time I found them waiting for me was on the night my ex-boyfriend dumped me. Before that, because Rain had a row with her then-best friend, now-boyfriend Mark Velasco, and we spent the day consoling her.

So when I found them sitting by my front door, I panicked a little, thinking that one of us was going through another crisis. But they burst out laughing in the midst of their conversation, and Meah squealed when she saw me. She jumped up from her spot and ran to me with arms wide open.

"What are you doing here?" I asked after I let them in my tiny apartment.

"We wanted to surprise you, silly." Rain dropped on her usual spot on my couch. "Where were you?"

"I was at work. If I had known you guys will be here, I would have clocked out earlier."

"Then what's the point of the surprise?" Meah asked in mock exasperation. "And you better stop channeling Rain! There's only one who can be a workaholic among us."

"Hey!" Rain protested as I laughed, but she didn't deny what Meah said. As a manager at an IT firm, twelve-hour workdays were regular for her, and sometimes she even worked on weekends. She would complain about it at times, but I think she secretly loved her job.

I had kept in touch with my friends while I was away, but nothing beat seeing them and hearing all of these in person. "I was planning to go to your place tonight, Rain. You know, where the celebrations usually happen? My place is more like the sorrow den or something."

"Sorrow den?" Meah repeated, wrinkling her nose. "Can't you think of a better term? That sounded kinky, Faith."

The doorbell interrupted us before I could respond. I opened the door to Mark, who was carrying boxes of pizza.

"Welcome back, Faith!" he greeted me with a huge grin. Once he was inside, he put the boxes on the table and immediately went to Rain for a kiss.

Meah groaned. "You guys, I love you, and I love that the two of you are together, but really. It's been more than a year and you guys should be done with the honeymoon stage."

I had expected them to kiss, so I busied myself with arranging the food to avoid seeing them. Not that I didn't like them for each other. Like Meah, I was happy for the two of them, after almost a decade of dancing around their feelings. It had been about damn time, and they'd been going strong. But just because I loved them didn't mean I wanted to be privy to these things.

I picked up a slice of cheese pizza—my favorite—and shoved it to Meah. "Quit complaining and kiss this pizza."

She took the slice from me, grumbling under her breath while Rain and Mark laughed. The couple settled on the floor in front of us.

"And here we were hoping you'd learn to eat meat again while you were away," Rain remarked.

I shook my head, chewing happily. I hadn't had my favorite pizza in months. "Nope. Still vegetarian."

It was a decision our family made after dad's cholesterol levels became worrisome. It hadn't been too hard of a switch for me because I never really liked pork, but my friends still teased me about it, even if they benefitted by getting my share of bacon whenever we dined out. My only vices had been whittled down to grease and cheese.

Despite the general cheerfulness in the air, there was some sort of unease from my friends. I was familiar with this because everyone at work acted the same way around me, too. I don't know if other Catholic non-profit organizations were the same, but we had a very relaxed work environment. Everyone treated each other like family, which made work a lot more fun, but it also meant that everyone knew everything about everyone, to the point that it was almost impossible to separate your professional and personal life. So naturally, everyone at work knew about the breakup and, like April, they were extra careful not to mention it.

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